Five Most Controversial Coaches in NCAA History

A college sports coach can be a marvelous influence in the development of young men’s and women’s lives. The coach can inspire, lead, and teach skills and value systems that the athletes under them will use for the rest of their lives. Other times, they can be petty, vindictive, and cheating. Often times, they perpetrate their cheating beneath a veil of widespread secrecy bordering on the famous grade-school excuse: “But everybody is doing it!” Other times, their actions are far worse than cheating. Here are five coaches whose actions have, or may have as the case may be, sullied the reputation of the NCAA:

No. 5: Lou Holtz

Holtz is only No. 5 on this list because most things could never be proven about him. There is no denying, however, that his Notre Dame teams bulked up with steroids during the 1980s and 1990s. He left a trail of NCAA violations in his wake. Luckily for him, and possibly mysteriously as well, each time he left a school, that school was hit with violations shortly thereafter.

No. 4: Jim Tressell

It’s tough to avoid this list when you lie to NCAA investigators and to the compliance committee at your own university. The potential sanctions against Ohio State were serious, but they weren’t “death-penalty serious.” Had he just said, “Yeah, I did it,” Tressell might have been fired, but he’d have had at least a shred of his credibility intact. What’s most mystifying is that Ohio State inducted him into its Hall of Fame anyway in 2015.

No. 3: John Calipari

Calipari has the dubious distinction of being the only coach to have two Final Four appearances stripped. At the University of Massachusetts, it was because at least one of his players took money from an agent. At Memphis, the season was wiped out because of shenanigans about Derrick Rose’s SAT. At Kentucky, at least one of his players is in hot water because of academic cheating. Although Calipari somehow eludes “direct responsibility,” he should know what goes on at his programs.

No. 2: Art Briles

The football culture at Baylor included promises of wild sex parties as an inducement to sign commitment letters. Briles’s own son was reported to ask a prospective player, “Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players.” There were allegations of gang rape, suppression of reports of the rapes, and all sorts of things going on under Art Briles’s watch. Perhaps worst of all, freshmen were forced to partake in gang rapes as part of their hazing.

No. 1: Jerry Sandusky

The man is a convicted serial rapist and pedophile. No more needs to be said.

All five of these men reduced the stature of college athletics in the United States. Indeed, millennials seem to care less and less about the near-religions of the gridiron and the hardwood. For the NCAA to survive as a viable entity over the long haul, it would behoove it to focus on integrity and fairness in the manner it handles scandals and controversy. Otherwise, it could mean the end of the whole institution at some point in the future.

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